How do I identify new work groups (departments) who want to implement Lean levers in their process?

There are two main ways to identify groups or departments who want to implement Lean.  In keeping with the Lean philosophy, let’s call them “Push” and “Pull”!


Often, an organization or division will decide to proceed with Lean due to some “burning platform” of need to change, potentially as senior leaders look to improve cost structure, customer service, employee engagement, or other key business metrics.  With a leadership team to set the direction, the best option is to conduct a “rapid assessment” of the process effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity within each department.  We would typically form a Lean team in each area, create a Value-Stream Map (VSM) of their core work process(es), and then use value-stream analysis and data (e.g., volume, work time, turnaround time, etc.) to find opportunities.  The full list becomes the “unconstrained” view, and then we conduct a cross-functional prioritization process to select which opportunities (“constrained”) most merit the resources that it will take to implement the approach.  Usually, the highest-impact opportunities go first and others follow later, but organizations can sometimes phase the priorities for other reasons (for example, if one area is currently fielding a new system, we might push up the Lean effort to get ahead of that, or we might wait for the system to be deployed before fine-tuning their new processes).


Sometimes there isn’t a burning platform or a leader who wants to impose the need to change on the whole organization, so we find that a department will “self-select” to volunteer to go first.  We still need to conduct a quick assessment to make sure the department is ready for the Lean journey, and then we implement the approach.  As we proceed, we can use that department to create “positive peer pressure” by showing the value that the Lean activities and cultural changes are generating.  Other departments see the value and then jump on the bandwagon.

Ultimately, regardless of whether you push or pull it, a Lean deployment done properly will build momentum because the approach really works.  You just have to navigate the natural resistance to change, build support for trying new things, and show positive results for both the business and the people.

Sounds easy, right?  Enjoy the journey!


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